More Good Luck Property To Be Open Space

A typical view in shore communities now: a house in the process of being raised, next to an empty lot. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  BERKELEY – Good Luck Point might not have the most accurate name, since the homeowners there didn’t have much luck during Superstorm Sandy.

  Like many shore communities, this small neighborhood off East Bayview Avenue were hit hard by the storm. Many residents gave up on rebuilding. The cost for construction was high. Also, the federal guidelines for building so close to the water were very strict, since they were no longer grandfathered in to the more lenient rules from when they were first built.

  At a recent Township Council meeting, officials asked for one of the properties, 25 Good Luck Point, to be purchased by the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund. This is an account fueled by a tax on every property in Ocean County.

Photo by Chris Lundy

  Ordinarily, it’s been used to take large swaths of property off the market, to prevent development. Along the Barnegat Bay in Berkeley, it’s been used to buy individual lots.   

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  For example, 14 individual properties between 2015 and 2021 were acquired under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The funding for these properties is provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Department of Environmental Protection. Approximately $6.5 million in grant funds are to be reimbursed in 2022.

  These properties will now be allowed to return to their natural state and will forever be open space.

  Councilman John Bacchione estimated that about 80% of Good Luck is now permanently protected.

  But this land will also protect other property.

  Environmentalists will say that lagoon and marsh property should never have been developed in the first place. They are important wildlife habitats. Additionally, they serve as a buffer for other properties that are slightly more inland.

  In the event of a storm surge or similar weather emergency, these shore properties are hit first. That’s what they are there for. The marsh takes the brunt of the weather. Building houses on them meant that those houses would get hit first.

There are still remnants of the former home on some of the abandoned properties. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  There’s another way these purchases protect their neighbors.

  There are no private insurance companies that offer flood insurance anymore. It’s all the federal government now. So, the government offers incentives to towns to make it more affordable.

  More open space on the shore will improve Berkeley’s standing in the National Flood Insurance Program with the Community Rating System. This means that if they protect their properties from flooding, everyone in the town who has to pay flood insurance will get a discount. Currently, they are given a 25% discount, Mayor Carmen Amato said.

  Getting to that discount took a lot of work. Turning residences into open space is just one part of it. Another is passing ordinances and changing municipal rules to guide development in such a way that flooding won’t have as much of a disastrous impact.

  The federal government sees low-lying shore properties as “repetitive losses.” In states where hurricanes are more devastating, the country is bailing out the same homeowners more than once. At that point, it’s more cost effective to just buy the land and prevent it from ever being built on again.

There are two homes on Dorrance Drive, the green space in between them, and the green on the side of this photo, is all open space. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  It’s also safer because it means people won’t be in harm’s way when the storm comes. Additionally, first responders won’t have to risk their lives to rescue them.

Land Value

  “The land was purchased at its appraised value so it’s a good deal for the owners,” Bacchione added.

  Shore property is always more valuable because people love living on the water. Those houses are worth a lot more, so the owners pay more in taxes. Making these properties open space takes these important ratables off the tax rolls, which means that the rest of the town have to make up the loss. However, a few properties spread among thousands means that each other Berkeley resident wouldn’t really feel the impact.

  In a larger sense, the town would feel it more. Ten shore properties could easily total $5 million dollars.

Open space areas are in green in this map of Good Luck Point. (Map courtesy Ocean County)

  Amato said that the town won’t suffer from them turning into open space. There is other development going on in town to soften the blow. Additionally, people are still rebuilding from Sandy. When they do, they usually end up with a much larger house that is worth more. So, it tends to even out.

Other Protected Land

  In addition to these small purchases, the Natural Lands Trust acquired larger tracts of land in Good Luck Point over the years, totaling approximately 700 acres. This began in 1988 with a 350-acre acquisition. In some cases, state and federal funds were part of the purchase.

  To see a map of all properties purchased by the county for open space, visit the Planning Department website at planning.co.ocean.nj.us/frmEPNaturalLandTrust